• Exclusives

    What Maholm & Johnson to ATL means for the Braves

    Paul Maholm is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA over has past 7 starts.

    One week after a trade with the Chicago Cubs for RHP Ryan Dempster fell through, Braves General Manager Frank Wren brokered another deal with the Cubs. This one held up.

    The Braves have acquired left-handed starting pitcher Paul Maholm and veteran outfielder Reed Johnson from the Cubs for RHP prospect Arodys Vizcaino and triple-A RHP Jay Chapman.

    The 30-year-old Maholm is the centerpiece of this deal. He is 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA so far this year. As solid as those numbers are, he’s been even better of late. He is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his past six starts (with one relief appearance in between). He will join a resurgent Braves rotation that has already been given a lift with the addition of Ben Sheets and the improved performance of Mike Minor. Along with Minor, the addition of Maholm means the Braves rotation will feature two lefties for the first time since 2008.

    Reed Johnson is hitting .333 vs left-handed pitching

    Paul Maholm is earning 4.25 million this season, and Atlanta reportedly got an undisclosed sum of cash from the Cubs in the deal. The Braves will have a 6.5 million dollar club option on Maholm for 2013.

    Reed Johnson is a 35-year-old veteran outfielder, who is capable of playing all three outfield positions. Johnson is batting .302 this year in 169 at-bats. Perhaps more importantly for the Braves, he’s hitting .333 with a .922 OPS vs left-handed pitching. And that’s no fluke. Johnson has not hit below .300 vs LHP since 2005.

    Johnson is earning 1.15 million dollars this year and will be a free agent at season’s end.

    Related: Frank Wren quotes on trade

    The Braves surrendered a top quality arm in the person of Arodys Vizcaino, but given that he projects to be a “power reliever”, as Wren put it, he figured to serve as nothing more than a middle-reliever in Atlanta. Jay Chapman is talented, but thought of as nothing more than a mid-level prospect within the Braves organization.

    With this trade, the Braves satisfy two needs in one deal. Their starting rotation is now complete, and they can keep RHP Kris Medlen in the bullpen, where we serves an important role. Also, the left-handed-heavy Braves offense adds a quality right-handed bat known for punishing southpaws. And Wren managed to swing this deal without giving up Randall Delgado (who was rumored to be included in the ill-fated Ryan Dempster trade) or any other prized starting pitching prospects.

    This appears to be an excellent low-cost, high reward exchange for the Braves, which should put them in a stronger position to compete for the NL East pennant. And this move will certainly strengthen their hand heading into October, should the Braves earn a postseason berth.

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